Working poverty continues to creep upward in Toronto. From 2006 to 2012, working poverty increased from 9.9% to 10.7% of the working-age population in the City of Toronto and from 8.2% to 10.7% in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area. While Toronto, by most measures, is Canada’s wealthiest city, it now has the distinction of also being the country’s working poverty capital.
The Working Poor in the Toronto Region: Mapping working poverty in Canada’s richest city, by Metcalf Innovation Fellow John Stapleton, compares Toronto to other regions across Canada, for the years 2006 to 2012. Stapleton uses tax-filing data collected by the Canada Revenue Agency. Although the report reveals that the rate of increase of working poverty has moderated since the first five years of the new millennium, Stapleton identifies reasons why Toronto’s almost 11% increase is both perplexing and disturbing. Among the reasons: minimum wage increased 37.6%, three new income supplements were introduced, and employment rates decreased by 2.7%. That the increase in working poverty took place while incomes were increasing and employment figures were declining magnifies the significance of this growth.
Stapleton’s research in The Working Poor in the Toronto Region: Mapping working poverty in Canada’s richest city confirms the “Manhattanization” of Toronto, wherein for the first time the core of the city is experiencing a decline in the proportion of residents who are working poor, and the inner and outer suburbs are experiencing significant increases.
The report asks readers to consider the implications of Toronto becoming a giant modern-day Downton Abbey where a well-to-do knowledge class relies on a large cadre of working poor who pour their coffee, mind their children, and clean their offices. It also calls for continued efforts to develop ways to help the working poor, including strategies for affordable housing, accessible public transit, and a labour market that can provide good stable jobs among low-wage earners.